If you’ve been following the story of the #SudanUprising-or even if you haven’t-chances are, you’ve seen this picture of a woman in a white tobe (Sudanese traditional outer garment) and gold earrings standing on a car and addressing a crowd of people with their smartphones raised, trying to record her as she chants. In viral videos, Salah can be heard chanting, “My grandmother is a Kandaka!”. Sudanese people worldwide have taken to referring to the female protesters as “Kandaka”, a title given to Nubian queens of ancient Sudan”
The image is moving enough on it’s own, but the symbolism of it is lost on anyone without a deeper understanding of Sudanese culture and history. Twitter user @HindMakki who explains the significance of Salah’s appearance in this picture from the “white tobe (outer garment) worn by working women in offices” to her earrings which “the gold moons of traditional bridal jewelry”, Makki tweets that “her entire outfit is also a callback to the clothing worn by our mothers and grandmothers in 60s, 70s and 80s who dressed like this while they marched the streets demonstrating against previous military dictatorships”
The role of women in this revolution cannot be overstated. An estimated two-thirds of the protesters are women. The protest were triggered due to the rising costs of food items and basic amenities but quickly escalated to the people calling for Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudanese President who was in office for 30 years before being ousted in a military coup after four months of protests and a historical sit in.
As women’s rights activist Hala Al-Karib tells Reuters,
“The price of bread was a trigger for the protests, but it’s not about bread, it’s about equality. It’s about dignity ”
What Al-Karib refers to as the Sudanese government’s “Islamic militant ideology” is responsible for various forms of oppression Sudanese women face. Women’s rights groups have long condemned Sudan’s public order law which was passed in 1992 and amended in 1996 under which women can be flogged or jailed arbitrarily for not covering their hair or for wearing trousers or clothing considered revealing.
In the protests, women from all walks of life have come out en masse to demand the freedom they have so long been denied. From students protesting in universities to female prisoners at Omdurman Prison going on hunger strike on International Women’s Day, to women too old to march banging pots outside their houses to encourage protesters.
Many protesters are celebrating the ousting of Al-Bashir, but many are not satisfied with the statements of Sudanese Defence Minister Ibn Auf who announced a two-year transitional government administered by the military. In the words of Alaa Salah via twitter “The people do not want a transitional military council…we want a civilian council to head the transition.” Even with al-Bashir ousted, the Sudanese people are still wary of the military and protests continue. It’s obvious however that they are determined to fight as hard as they can and as long as they have to for their equality, dignity and freedom.